ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo again refused to step down Friday, defiantly accusing the politicians calling for his resignation — including a growing contingent of his own party — of being “reckless” and “bowing to cancel culture.”
Cuomo, a Democrat, spoke to reporters on a conference call hours after 14 Democratic members of New York’s congressional delegation issued statements calling on the governor to quit amid a growing scandal that has seen at least six women accuse him of sexual misconduct, harassment or otherwise inappropriate behavior.
On Friday, the governor again denied any wrongdoing but sounded a more aggressive tone than he has in the past, going as far to seemingly suggest his accusers may have ulterior motives.
He saved his harshest words for the politicians of both parties calling for his immediate resignation, a lengthy list that includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerry Nadler and state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Cuomo said he will not resign and urged everyone to wait for a pair of ongoing investigations, one by the Attorney General’s Office and another by the state Assembly, to conclude before forming their opinions.
“Women have a right to come forward and be heard and I encourage that fully,” Cuomo said. “But I also want to be clear: There is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged. Period.”
The governor then said he will not “speculate as to peoples’ possible motives,” but added: “There are often many motivations for making an allegation and that is why you need to know the facts before you make a decision.”
At least 14 Democratic members of New York’s congressional delegation are now calling for Cuomo to step down amid the ongoing sexual misconduct and COVID-19 scandals that have engulfed him and his administration.
In what appeared to be a unified effort, 13 congressional representatives from New York issued statements calling for Cuomo’s resignation within two hours of each other Friday morning, citing numerous misconduct allegations and his administration’s efforts to hide the true COVID-19 death toll in nursing homes.
The lawmakers — including Ocasio-Cortez, Nadler and Democratic Congressional Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney — joined Long Island Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat who issued her call for Cuomo’s resignation last week.
“For the good of our state and everyone who calls it home, I urge Governor Cuomo to resign,” Rep. Mondaire Jones said in a statement.
Of the at least six women who have accused Cuomo of harassment, misconduct or other inappropriate behavior, five worked for him.
The most damning accusation came to light Wednesday, when the Times Union of Albany reported a female aide claims Cuomo reached under her blouse and groped her after she was summoned to his private residence at the Executive Mansion in Albany.
Cuomo denied the allegation on the conference call Friday after previously issuing a statement denying it Wednesday.
He urged New Yorkers to allow an investigation led by Attorney General Letitia James’ office to move forward unimpeded.
On Thursday, the state Assembly launched what it is calling an impeachment investigation, giving its Judiciary Committee impeachment power to probe Cuomo’s office and help determine whether his removal from office is appropriate.
Nineteen of New York’s 27 congressional representatives are Democrats, meaning only five have not called for him to step down, including Reps. Joseph Morelle of the Rochester area and Hakeem Jeffries of New York City.
The Democratic House members issuing calls for Cuomo’s resignation as of 1:30 p.m. Friday were:
- Rep. Kathleen Rice
- Rep. Yvette Clarke
- Rep. Antonio Delgado
- Rep. Mondaire Jones
- Rep. Carolyn Maloney
- Rep. Adriano Espaillat
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
- Rep. Grace Meng
- Rep. Nydia Velazquez
- Rep. Jerry Nadler
- Rep. Jamaal Bowman
- Rep. Brian Higgins
- Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney
- Rep. Paul Tonko
In his statement, Nadler, a longtime lawmaker who has known Cuomo for decades, said the governor is “guaranteed due process under law.”
But he said the question of whether Cuomo should resign is a “political judgment” that is a “question of confidence in our political leadership.”
“Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of the people of New York,” said Nadler, the head of the House Judiciary Committee. “Governor Cuomo must resign.”
Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Jamaal Bowman issued a joint statement, saying the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct have been “consistent and highly-detailed, and there are also credible media reports substantiating their accounts.”
They said they have concluded Cuomo “can no longer effectively lead in the face of so many challenges.”
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, pledged support for the ongoing investigations but said he has “made my own judgment.”
“The victims of sexual assault concern me more than politics or other narrow considerations, and I believe Governor Cuomo must step aside,” he said.
Should Cuomo step down, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would assume the governor’s office through the end of his term, which runs through 2022.
“I have every confidence that Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is fully capable of assuming the duties and responsibilities of the office,” Maloney said in his statement.
Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.